One of the rewarding benefits of working with progressive landowners around the UK is that we can be involved in projects that restore, preserve and create new habitats.
We are in discussions with Cairngorms National Park (CNPA) with regard to the regeneration of native aspen trees. During a site visit with CNPA, they were pleased with the health of the woodland and noted that we had several aspen trees. Aspen is a target species for the National Park to encourage greater distribution.
We will be working with CNPA to use deer fencing to create small enclosures discretely in the woodland at Delliefure. These need only be a few meters square and would have aspen planted in them. In a few years when the aspen have grown sufficiently, the fencing can be removed. CNPA will also identify larger enclosures that could be used to encourage regeneration of the birch as well because there are very few young trees in there.
We are delighted to be able to support CNPA with its aspen regeneration project.
Duncan Grant, Custodian at Delliefure, is leading a project he identified when he took over the role in 2020. He’s looking at the management of the meadows. In an ideal world, we would convert the whole area into a wildflower meadow but due to the large scale of the grassland that is really impractical. Duncan has organised site meetings with the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) and Speyside Fields for Wildlife to discuss how to encourage wildflowers. He has discovered that it isn’t going to be easy…
The key is to get the grass cut and taken away. Once that is done we can get the meadow scarified and seed sown. But we have a very active mole population and molehills contaminate the cut grass, so it isn’t useable as hay and farmers don’t want it. This is a problem as we need an economical way to clear it and we don’t want to harm the moles.
As a first step, we have decided to experiment in the area to the west of the car park. In the spring a local group of chaps with old restored tractors and machinery are going to prepare that area and sow it with a native wildflower mixture, and we will see if we can create a meadow there.
Our landowner and custodian, Sarah Wickham, is passionate about environmental issues and has a number of projects that she is working on at Pembrokeshire natural burial ground.
The largest of these is a pond and wetland area at the bottom end of the field to where surface water naturally flows. The soil there is heavy clay and suited to the formation of a pond. This project is in its early days and we will be calling on the experience of our landowner partners at Aylesbury, who have a number of ponds on the farm, including the recently formed pond at the burial ground there.
Our scheme to restore the orchard at Clearbrook Farm, Bath, has been a huge success. Families came together to plant heritage varieties of apple trees to commemorate people buried in the adjacent natural burial ground. That project is now complete and the apple trees are maturing well, producing heritage apples and making a positive contribution to the environment.
The next project is to develop the theme by creating a productive forest garden on the slope to the south of the car park. This will give families the opportunity to plant trees, shrubs and low-level plants that produce edible fruit, nuts legumes and herbs. It will be based on the concept of permaculture and we will partner with local groups who will help us design the scheme and source the plants.
The new natural burial ground just west of Dorchester is restoring the locally distinctive landscape.
The natural burial ground scheme helps to achieve one of the primary objectives of the Dorset AONB Management Plan – restoring downland, especially out of intensive arable production. The use of the permanent pasture for natural burials will enable the farm to economically sustain the restoration of downland in place of arable crops.
The new area of downland is adjacent to a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI), a valuable area of downland banks to the north. The natural burial ground will be managed in the same way as the SNCI. By sharing the livestock that grazes the land to the north, the seed-bank of flora from the ancient grassland will gradually spread and populate the regenerated pasture. This partnership between the two pieces of land adds real value to the downland restoration and could over time extend the SNCI designation.
Here is our journey of restoration so far…
To reduce the risk of local flooding at our Aylesbury Vale natural burial ground, we have formed a land drain that intercepts surface water linked to a newly formed pond. The level of the pond rises and falls with rainfall peaks to level out the risk of potential flooding.
This simple scheme addresses the impact of climate change in a practical way that has also provided us with an opportunity to create an attractive landscape feature and a vital refuge for many freshwater plants and animals that are now rare or threatened. It also provides resources for amphibians and land-based species which need fresh water.
The pond was lovingly designed and planted by Dorothy Brock and her family using the wealth of local knowledge and native plants from other ponds on the farm. It is now home to a huge diversity of wildlife and attracts visiting birds including herons and ducks (quite appropriate for Aylesbury).
Within the ‘wildlife corner’ at the natural burial ground at Aylesbury Vale, there is the most delightful bug hotel. Constructed from wooden pallets, salvaged materials from the farmyard and capped with a fine slate roof, the bug hotel provides refuge and homes for all kinds of insects and small creatures.
The burial ground at Cothiemuir Hill in Aberdeenshire is located on the edge of mature woodland. When we designed the scheme for the burial ground, we chose to extend the margins of the existing woodland by creating a series of new glades surrounded by new native tree planting along one edge of the old wood.
The land at Cothiemuir was originally part of a large arable field. The new tree planting was used to provide a structure to sub-divide and make sense of the spaces we use for burials. Fifteen years on from the original planting and the trees have matured well, blending with the adjacent woodland. They provide additional diversity of habitats for wildlife and plants and at the same time provide berries, fruit and other food for wildlife. They have also succeeded in making the burial ground a sheltered and peaceful place.
The hilltop folly and mature beech woodland at Hundy Mundy form an iconic landscape feature as viewed from the terrace of one of Scotland’s finest country houses – Mellerstain. The 18th-century folly, attributed to William Adam, was built in a clearing in the trees specifically as a landscape feature in the middle distance.
The large trees are now hundreds of years old and several have suffered and fallen at the battering of storms over recent years. To restore the woodland, we are growing new specimen trees in the spaces left by fallen trees to ensure the continued presence of the woodland strip.
The natural burial ground at Cardiff occupies part of a designed landscape around Coedarhydyglyn, a fine neo-classical Regency villa and estate. A feature of the burial ground is the grouping of mature trees that punctuate the hilltop grassland. In 2012, to commemorate the Queen’s diamond jubilee, three groups of three Sessile Oak trees (Quercus petraea) were planted to recreate the character of the parkland setting. Originally protected by wrought iron cages, the trees have now matured to no longer need these.
Oak trees are fantastic for nurturing wildlife providing vital food to eat and places to shelter. The number of species supported by a single tree is enormous. We look forward to seeing them mature into fine specimens over the years.